Our team set out to investigate the outlook for nanotechnology in Latin America and interviewed one of the experts in the field. Dr. Miguel Ángel Méndez Rojas (Coordinator of the Nanotechnology and Molecular Engineering program at the Universidad de las Américas Puebla) talked to us about his perspective on the future of nanoscience in Latin America versus the rest of the world.
-Dr. Miguel Ángel, compared to the rest of the world, what is the outlook for Latin America in terms of investment in nanotechnology research and development?
It is an uncertain scenario at this time, not because of capabilities (human resources, infrastructure) but mainly because of financial support. In Latin America there are research groups, as well as postgraduate programs and laboratories with equipment that place them among the most competitive worldwide, conducting research on frontier topics. But economic support (mostly from governments, since private sector participation is incipient) limits their impact. In this sense, we could see this as an area of opportunity: if private sector companies, national or foreign, were to invest in the development of nanotechnology research projects in the Latin American region, they would find an excellent cost/benefit ratio, being able to generate products that not only satisfy the needs of the regional market, but also compete successfully in the international market. There is a high probability of developing high-tech productive companies, which could be nurtured by local talent, as well as developing important links between higher education institutions (public and private), thus reducing technological dependence on foreign countries.
-From your point of view, what does it take to catch up with the major powers?
An ambitious and visionary program for the development and strengthening of high-level human resources training capabilities, not only at the graduate and postgraduate levels, but also at the basic level, similar to national strategies implemented by other countries such as Australia or China. The creation of research nodes and regional technological services (national and international cooperation) that allow the integration of research and development capabilities, as well as a strategy that facilitates the generation and support of innovative technological companies so that they can successfully overcome the first years (which are the most difficult), allowing them to consolidate and compete locally and internationally, through non-repayable credits, access to existing infrastructure in universities, in exchange for employing talent generated in them, could be a successful and binding strategy that would generate immediate impacts and benefits, especially if they can be linked not only to the needs of the country, but of the Latin American region (food, access to drinking water, alternative energies, human health, etc.).
-What do you see as the future for this technology?
I believe that the future of Nanotechnology is very clear: to support the search and development of solutions to some of the most pressing problems of society (especially problems common to the Latin American region). It is a revolution in process, where we have the opportunity to join and be competitive on a global scale, but with local and regional impact. It is important that, as a region, Latin American countries find cooperation strategies and work together to become a competitive player in global nanoscience and nanotechnology. In the end, it is more than just seeking economic resources, it is about developing a common vision of how and in what to apply the products of research to solve the common problems that we share as a region.
At My Nano Academy we share Dr. Mendez's vision and we believe that, in Latin America, organizations must be encouraged to incorporate nanotechnology as an innovation tool that allows us to provide solutions to our main needs.
Dr. Miguel Ángel Méndez Rojas (Coordinator of the Nanotechnology and Molecular Engineering Program at the Universidad de las Américas Puebla).